Transnet seeks eviction despite conceding that half the traders are not on its land
Lawyers from SERI appear in the Mahikeng High Court tomorrow, 6 September 2019, to defend dozens of Mogwase informal traders against eviction. The eviction is sought by Transnet, which says that the Mogwase traders are trading illegally on its land.
In their answering papers, however, the traders demonstrate that Transnet is mistaken about which land the traders are doing business on. Drawing on records from the Registrar of Deeds, SERI was able to show that the Mogwase traders are in fact on land immediately next to Transnet’s property, and not actually on it. In its reply and a subsequent site inspection, Transnet conceded that at least half of the Mogwase traders are not actually on its land. The Mogwase traders persist in their contention that none of them are actually trading on Transnet’s land.
Despite its concession, Transnet still seeks the eviction of all of the traders in its written argument. But SERI argues that an eviction order cannot be granted where there is no acceptable evidence that the traders are actually on Transnet’s land.
Evicting the traders will infringe their rights to dignity, which Transnet, as an organ of state, is constitutionally required to respect. The Mogwase traders have a right to trade to feed their families. If they could not trade, they would be destitute.
SERI will also argue that the traders’ rights can easily be protected through a project currently being implemented by the Moses Kotane Municipality, which will see the traders being given access to stalls on another site, hopefully by the end of October 2019. Despite being informed of the project, Transnet has pushed its case to court, and now seeks and eviction order. This, SERI will argue, is incompatible with Transnet’s constitutional obligations. Even if it owns the land it claims, Transnet should nevertheless be ordered to engage with the traders to ensure that they can relocate to the municipality’s stands and preserve their fragile livelihoods without interruption.
Zamantungwa Khumalo, the Mogwase traders’ attorney said: “Transnet’s conduct falls far short of what should be expected of an organ of state. In seeking to push the matter to court now, Transnet asks the High Court to destroy the fragile livelihoods of dozens of poor and vulnerable people and their families. There is simply no need to do this.”